Martial arts icon Bruce Lee gets biopic

Bruce Lee in Game of Death. PHOTO: HANDOUT

The Big Boss will be aiming to land another knockout punch at the box office.

Forty-four years after Bruce Lee died in 1973, work is set to begin on Little Dragon, an authorised biopic of the martial arts icon.

His ground-breaking movies, from The Big Boss (1971) to Enter The Dragon (1973), had forged a new realism in gongfu productions and sparked a global wave of interest in Asian martial arts.

According to trade publication Variety, it focuses on 1950s Hong Kong, where a young Lee has to spar with issues such as romance, betrayal, racism and poverty.

Bruce Lee Entertainment, a company operated by Lee's daughter Shannon, is involved in the project, which has seen her doing research on her father's youth and formative years.

That period in Lee's life has also been tapped on in other movies, notably the Ip Man films (2008-2015) starring Donnie Yen.

Ip was Lee's martial arts mentor.

Pre-production for Little Dragon has kicked off, with shooting slated from July in Malaysia and China.

A search is on for someone to play Lee in the movie, which is also backed by Chinese investors.

"I always thought that a film about how my father's life was shaped in his early years in Hong Kong would be a worthwhile story to share, so we could better understand him as a human being and a warrior," Hollywood Reporter quoted Shannon as saying.

Little Dragon director Shekhar Kapur also helmed the Oscar-nominated biopics Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).

Lee died at the height of his success, at age 32, from an allergic reaction to a painkiller he had taken.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline Martial arts icon Bruce Lee gets biopic. Subscribe